SIBLING Plunders Lady Di and Babs Windsor for London Fashion Week Show

Community is a concept generating a huge amount of buzz in digital terms in the fashion and tech industries, where brands and businesses engage customers online and build loyalty with the aim of learning more about them and increasing commercial success.  Another kind of the community is the one that is built by a group of people with shared values, where a dialogue about politics, societal shifts and popular culture in, for example, their geographical location, takes place – where all subjects relevant to the community are on the table and action via collaboration, creativity and inclusion happens at a real life level.  Enter SIBLING.

SIBLING is more than a fashion brand – it’s a physical and digital community.  In fashion as in language, the word Sibling means brother, sister – family and unity – which is what Cozette McCreery and Sid Bryan, designers and heads of the SIBLING squad, represent.   They have an extended family around them and are deeply rooted in the arts, music and fashion scene that began in East London way before it became cool, and even longer before the term ‘hipster’ was born and became attached to their stomping ground.

A SIBLING show is an expression of this extended family and the core values of Cozette and Sid and of Britain.   This season it was expressed by way of nods to Lady Di‘s ruffled collars of the nineties, a hat ‘fit for Babs Windsor at a wedding’, London’s Pearly Kings and Queens and jazzed up football socks by way of bows.  Way beyond aesthetics and stylistic leanings it celebrates diversity and self-expression, embracing the enrichment of British culture by other cultures, including the work of Reggae’s ‘Mad Scientist’, Jamaican Lee Scratch Perry, before side-stepping to that most beloved British holiday destination, Spain (I’m sure Babs Windsor would approve) to grab silhouettes from Toreadors and Gaudi’s Trencadis mosaic techniques to add to the mix.

Top: Lady Diana (source unknown), Centre: London’s Pearly Kings and Queens (source unknown), Above: Lee Scratch Perry, GQ magazine

My passion for knitwear is clear via my design work and I couldn’t get through this article without mentioning the extremely complex process behind designing, developing and creating knitwear, the core of the SIBLING brand.  Knitwear is more complex to create than cut and sew woven and jersey garments as it involves designing and constructing the knitted textile, then creating the garment, as opposed to buying lengths of fabric for cut and sew techniques which bypass the textile design and creation processes altogether.  More complex, time consuming and expensive it may be, but it also allows for a bold and focussed vision, as represented in SIBLING’s use of colour and pattern.

As the current day brunette ‘Lady Di’ strode past I admired the metres of ruffles linked onto the knitted jackets and the lovingly designed details including lurex trims.  The increased time and scope of crafting two combined mens and womens collections rather than four separate collections per year looks to have allowed SIBLING the opportunity to explore print and weaving in addition to knitting, so the Trencadis concept extended beyond the knits to printed sweaters and trousers.

Their shoe collaboration with Freakloset uses their bespoke customisation system, rounding off my review with a foray towards digital design and how technology is shaping the fashion industry across all areas of the supply chain, from design to sales and delivery.

Sibling X Freakloset A/W 2017 Photo: Freakloset

This SIBLING show was a celebration of friendship, collaboration, British values of diversity and inclusion – something we need to shout about in this currently polarising political climate – and gives the audience an insight into what this ‘close-knit’ (sorry, couldn’t resist!) team stands for.  It is fun and moving and it transcends fashion.  Onwards and upwards #SIBLINGsquad

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London College of Fashion Sustainability Initiatives “Fired Up” by Professor Sandy Black

Fashion’s future is about looking forward, however looking back with Sandy Black, Professor of Fashion and Textile Design and Technology at London College of Fashion, serves up a timely lesson for right now on running a fashion business and sustainability.

Professor Black provides the privilege of reflection – of pausing and drawing on decades of analysis of craft and technology and designer fashion businesses through her academic research and practice and asking the question ‘why has so little changed for fashion designers in terms of barriers to growing a successful business’?  Many of the difficulties Professor Black, a maths graduate from UCL (more on that later), faced when running her knitwear business in the 70’s and 80’s still exist today, especially in terms of financing production whilst investing in new collections and finding manufacturers willing to work with emerging brands in a dynamic and affordable way.  The conversation and landscape is changing, though.

Professor Black completed a maths degree at UCL whilst exploring, informally, her interest in craft and knitting.  Upon graduation she became involved in an artistic knitting movement that saw an explosion of her knitwear across the globe.  Sandy Black Fashion knitwear was stocked in boutiques in the US, Japan, Australia and Europe.  Her hand and domestic machine knitted pieces were intricate and painterly, reflecting a new creative and artistic approach to knitwear that thrust itself into the fashion realm, beyond its reputation as a domestic craft.

img_2117Coat by Sandy Black  Photo: David McIntyre

“Digital knitting began in the 70’s” states Professor Black.  The current knitting technology is an extension of, rather than a re-invention of, that knitting technology.  She forged links with Stoll, a world-leading industrial knitting machine manufacturer to have a machine installed at London College of Fashion, enabling students to immerse themselves in industry techniques and adopt new technology in their practice.

The excitement in knitting arguably lies in its fusion of craft and technology and Professor Black’s publications, including Interrogating Fashion, Eco-Chic: The Fashion Paradox and The Sustainable Fashion Handbook explore the impact of this fusion on fashion, in terms of manufacturing, sustainability and aesthetics.  Her recent work, in collaboration with a number of London College of Fashion-based academics, is an online platform allowing the exchange of information between fashion academics and the designer fashion industry to promote insightful, sustainable and collaborative practice for better business and environmental outcomes.

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The platform, FIREup, has fuelled debate around changing business models for sustainability.  It intends to unlock the potential of industry and academic collaboration, and is designed to help designer-fashion businesses in London access knowledge based in the university’s research centres and academic staff across three prestigious colleges: Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion and Chelsea College of Arts.  The FIREup initiative is now expanding across the UK. 

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Professor Sandy Black in discussion with Michelle Lowe-Holder, Martine Jarlgaard, Kiwy Huang and Ben Alun-Jones at the Creativeworks Festival, King’s College London – Photo: CSF

As part of the FIREup initiative, four projects were undertaken to allow designers to conduct research to inform their business decisions.  This research involved a sort of ‘forced reflection’ and contemplation.  Recent exits of high-profile designers from global fashion businesses (Raf Simons from Dior and Alber Elbaz from Lanvin) were allegedly, at least partly, the result of frustration at a lack of time and space to pause and reflect because of the relentless cycle of punishing product deadlines with no time for contemplation and development.  Although running a smaller business with fewer product categories is arguably less time-pressured, it is absolutely true that the pressures Professor Black faced whilst running her business and that often lead to added strain on small businesses have not yet been resolved.  It is the mandate of FIREup to allow designers space, time, academic support and funding to conduct reflective research and steer their business forward in a more successful and thoughtful way.  Christopher Raeburn is one such designer involved in the FireUp Catalyst Project.

Raeburn’s ‘REMADE’ products are crafted from re-appropriated military fabrics.  The jacket below was remade by deconstructing and shredding original German snow ponchos, the Schneetarn (German for ‘snow camouflage’) Parka.  A limited edition garment, it is one of a maximum of 50, proudly remade in Raeburn’s London studio.

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The women’s Ceremonial Biker Jacket is reworked from original British military ceremonial garments, traditional British military wear that have held the same design for the last century.  The jacket, typical of British cavalry, artillery and infantry, is also a limited edition piece (a maximum of 50) also remade in the Christopher Raeburn Studio.  Shop Christopher Raeburn here.

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Currently promoted on the FIREup platform, and being hosted by Professor Rebecca Earley and Dr. Kate Goldsworthy is the Mistra Fashion Future Conference on textile design and the circular economy which is part of their research aimed at creating the vision of designing for a circular future where materials are designed, produced, used and disposed of in radical new ways. “Circular Transitions will be the first global event to bring together academic and industry research concerned with designing fashion textiles for the circular economy.  The themes will explore the design of new materials for fashion with approaches ranging from emerging technology and social innovation to systems design and tools.”  For more information about the conference in London this November visit FIREup or Mistra Future Fashion.

It’s clear that Professor Black’s research and industry involvement, along with the work of her fellow academics at London College of Fashion, is helping shape the discourse around designer businesses and sustainability.  The broader discussion, encompassing the impact of our lifestyle choices (including fashion) on the environment has been explored by Professor Helen Storey in her recent Dress For Our Time project.  Developed in partnership with Holition, the dress digitally displayed data – extracted from a major study of the global risks of future shifts in ecosystems due to climate, which showed the impact of climate change on our physical world. It showed the planet as it will be, if we don’t do enough.  The film below demonstrates the shocking and compelling figures related to the refugee crises and displacement across across the globe projected onto the Dress For Our Time:

Professor Black and Professor Storey are both also instrumental team members at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) at the London College of Fashion – a Research Centre of the University of the Arts London based at London College of Fashion. Our work explores vital elements of Better Lives London College of Fashion’s commitment to using fashion to drive change, build a sustainable future and improve the way we live.  In 2014 the CSF announced a five-year partnership to work closely with Kering to support sustainable practices in education for the fashion industry. The partnership is a three-way approach to ensure new ways of thinking about sustainability in fashion: The Kering Talks, The Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion and The Empowering Imagination module for MA students at LCF.  This year’s Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion will be announced on November 14th and I will be attending and writing about the finalists, so stay tuned!

To learn more about CSF initiatives, click here

To find out more about FIREup and see current opportunities here

Header Image:  Christopher Raeburn, who uses re-appropriated military materials in his collections

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Edda’s Illustrative Fancies Make for Fashion Week Fun

I wrote about the work of fashion designer Edda Gimnes on Techstyler back in February and was curious to see where her penchant for large, sweeping illustrated textiles had taken her for this season.  Edda is an emerging designer beginning to navigate her way into the fashion industry, grabbing onto opportunities arising from winning the bronze award at Designer’s Remix in Milan in March and Germany’s ‘Designer of Tomorrow‘ award in July, following the launch of her label EDDA at Fashion Scout  seven months ago during London Fashion Week.

Edda’s speciality is her celebration of ‘naive’ illustration (she draws with her non-dominant hand) and her willingness to be led into creative territory by mistakes and asymmetry in pattern cutting.  Most western-trained fashion graduates are schooled to strive for balance in pattern cutting, with a focus on fit and silhouette.  Edda’s patterns are a canvas – at times literally – for her fun and figurative broad-brush stroke designs which are digitally printed onto textiles.  The result is graphic, bold and a whole lot of fun.

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Winning the ‘Designer of Tomorrow’ award following her SS16 collection launch has earned Edda the tutelage of Alber Elbaz, commencing in 2017.  She will create collections in Germany and expand her practice and understanding of commerciality and manufacturing during the year-long award, supported by Peek and Cloppenburg.  I joined Edda to view her SS17 collection in East London, following her presentation at Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week.  She talked me through her ambitions to develop more wearable pieces in this collection and create structured dresses with softer prints to balance her signature graphics whilst maintaining the fun and naive construction and idiosyncratic details.  She peppered the new collection with colour and also introduced cute illustrated canvas handbags.

s02_0798s07_1115 s12_1998s06_0926s11_1669Edda SS17  Photos: Yoo Sun

I was especially drawn to the graphic prints in this collection.  Trying on Edda’s clothes transports me into a Quentin Blake-illustrated Roald Dahl-esque world, exciting my imagination and wrapping me in fantastical childhood memories.  Who wants to be a grown up anyway?

Edda SS17 London Fashion Week presentation

Edda and I discuss fashion magic and she wholeheartedly believes in keeping the spirit and fun in her designs from concept through to the final product.  Arguably, fashion is most successful when it offers familiarity and fantasy at the same time – there is something that feels right (nostalgic or familiar) and something new about it.  Edda’s creations deliver that.  They are so authentic – like a child’s frank honesty – and carry with them the designer’s charm, making the clothes highly personal for both her and the wearer.

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I’m placing a personal order and look forward to experiencing this feeling every time I wear one of Edda’s designs.  I also look forward to seeing the response it elicits from others.  After all, fashion is a language best celebrated in dialogue and Edda’s graphic stories are the perfect conversation starter.

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Sartorial Serendipity at 34 Montagu Square

It’s a story of serendipity.  Beatie Wolfe, singer songwriter and digital pioneer of the NFC-launched album Montagu Square met me at, well, 34 Montagu Square, to discuss a very peculiar and fascinating collaboration.

I say very peculiar for more reasons than one.  34 Montagu square is the home of tailor and Anthony Sinclair Creative Director David Mason.  The very same residence was home to Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Ringo Starr in the 60’s.  It was also the recording place of Eleanor Rigby and a number of other era-defining songs by the Beatles and other seminal artists from the 60’s and 70’s. David tells me that the current owner from whom he leases the property outbid Noel Gallagher.  Imagine the fallout.

unspecifiedDavid Mason and Beatie Wolfe – Image: Stuart Nicholls

8ad5a2a2ab5eeb800bcaba09a1b7c1a026bosboom002654981b82c13139d671a2e56c1c6c4e0Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon and Yoko Ono at 34 Montagu Square

I was greeted at 34 Montagu Square by David Mason who recently acquired the rights to the Mr Fish label – a fashion brand famous in the mid 60’s to 70’s for dressing Mick Jagger, David Bowie, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and less famous for dressing David Hockney, Pablo Picasso and Princess Margaret.  The role call of clients is astonishing.

12-carnabyTlRy2Gjtumblr_lwvnacdxAO1r95vbyo1_50030B0F57500000578-3422402-image-m-83_1454063635580Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix wearing Mr Fish.  And Mr Michael Fish himself outside his boutique

David is in the midst of relaunching Mr Fish (which we’ll delve into further in a future post) but today we’re talking about a collaboration he has just completed with Beatie and digital weaving pioneer Nadia Anne Ricketts, founder of Beatwoven.

DSC01015Beatie’s Take Me Home Jacket is enabled with NFC technology and when in close range of an NFC-enabled smartphone, plays the song

Beatie bumped into David at the Royal Albert Hall while attending a Michael Caine event commemorating the film Alfie – which Anthony Sinclair tailors created the suits for – and they got talking about 34 Montagu Square.  David invited Beatie over for tea and to experience the fascinating story of the residence.  This led to a discussion about Beatie performing in the flat and recording a track there.  The idea of translating the track into a fabric came about later.  It was the result of  another chance meeting, this time between Beatie and Nadia at a book launch.  Nadia was presenting her ‘Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds’ chair, which caught Beatie’s attention.

ChairPanelNadia’s Beatwoven designs

Beatie and Nadia came up with the idea of weaving a fabric from one of Beatie’s tracks, which would then be crafted into a jacket befitting a rock star, by David and his team of Hackney Wick-based tailors.  David was inspired by the military jackets made popular by Jimi Hendrix and particularly the strength of the shoulder line.  Jimi’s signature collar features too.


Jimi_Hendrix_by_Gered_MankowitzImage: Jimi Hendrix, Mason’s Yard, London, 1967. Photograph by Gered Mankowitz © Bowstir Ltd. 2012/Mankowitz.com

David’s tailoring is steeped in British history and culture, and the weaving of the fabric at a mill in Sudbury in addition to Beatie’s Brit singer-songwriter swagger makes this a very British collaboration from concept to completion.  This collaboration was driven by creativity.  There was no commercial aim, leaving the three collaborators to experiment with fabric selection and even change the garment from a gown to a jacket in the final few weeks of the project.

unspecified-9unspecified-6unspecified-12The weaving of Take Me Home – Images: Stuart Nicholls

unspecified-4Stuart Nicholls 4Design Development and colourway selection – Images: Stuart Nicholls

The unveiling of the collaboration took place at an intimate gig at 34 Montagu Square and was subsequently launched at DLD in Germany, where Beatie spoke about her album and the serendipitous collaboration that arose from her chance meeting with David.

Stuart Nicholls 2Beatie and her pack performing Take Me Home at 34 Montagu Square

Delving a little deeper into the fabric creation, Nadia explained that the resulting fabric is dependent on the frequency and ‘fullness’ of the track.  Electro and synth-driven music leads to intense and densely detailed digital imagery in her customised software, which effectively creates a visual representation of the sound according to frequency and amplitude.  Conversely, classical music, which tends to contain moments of little or no sound, creates sparser digital patterns.  Nadia manipulates the patterns to create graphic visual effects that have a sensibility toward the final design and the inspiration.  It’s a fascinating practice that arose from a passion for sound and dance and evolved from an analogue incarnation into a fully-fledged piece of software, to which she is hoping to add a customising functionality for her private clients.

David explains the process of toileing and fitting that any tailor or pattern-cutter would be familiar with.  The basted and canvas-lined toile remains in the Hackney Wick studio should Beatie request another bespoke jacket any time soon. David’s tailors crafted the jacket from the silk/cashmere/silver jacquard made in a satin twill structure requiring deft hands to control the movement and stability of the fabric.  It’s like liquid gold and my experience tells me it would have been a difficult fabric to work with –  which David confirms.

unspecified-8unspecified-11unspecified-10David Mason’s Anthony Sinclair Tailors creating the Take Me Home Jacket – Images: Stuart Nicholls

DSC01018The Mr Fish ‘Peculiar’ customised label for Beatie Wolfe

The final result is a digi-inspired piece of cultural history.  Inspired by Beatie, translated by Nadia and crafted by David.  It’s a beautiful creation that transcends each of them as individual artists and creatives and tells a story about British craftsmanship and the power of musical culture.  The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston has expressed an interest in exhibiting the piece, which further illustrates the significance of its craftsmanship and powerful storytelling ability.

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Rhythmic moments in time distilled into a fabric and crafted into a piece of sartorial history – this is more than fashion, more than music and more than technology.  The sum of these parts is enlightening, inspiring and unexpected.  34 Montagu Square has a magical quality, says Beatie. ” There’s something about this room”.  I tend to agree.

Stuart NichollsThe collaborators: Beatie Wolfe, David Mason and Nadia-Ann Ricketts at 34 Montagu Square – Image: Stuart Nicholls

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Edda Gimnes Makes Fantastical Fashion

“I wasn’t exactly top of my class, my techniques were a bit out there.”  Edda Gimnes confirmed what I feared when lecturing recently – that in some institutions, students were being moulded, polished and judged according to a narrow set of guidelines where a certain ‘aesthetic’ prevails and is thought of as ‘good design’ and all else is less than acceptable.  Want to design shiny ballgowns?  Tacky!  Want to scribble on blank canvases then slash and top-stitch them together a la’ paper doll dress?  No way!  Fashion design is almost entirely subjective, but you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise if you listen to some schools of thought in fashion education (no pun intended).


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Edda Gimes AW16 collection and inspiration

What makes a good design?  What makes a great designer?  Does it have anything to do with taste?  Does it matter?  The question I prefer to ask is how does the designer’s work make me feel?  What does it inspire in me?  If the answer is nothing, then subjectively, it’s not for me.  In the case of Edda Gimnes collection it filled me with happiness, excitement and wonder.  I think fashion is largely about magic… and clothes.  Edda’s clothes are sprinkled with a childlike fun that came from her abandon and wit in scrawling across vast sections of cloth with her non-dominant hand in an effort to return to a time when she was learning to draw – to return to being a kid.  The charming naivety leaps off the fabrics which are stiff cotton ‘canvases’ that showcase her monochrome illustrations to great effect.  The jagged seams and raw edges suggest an immediacy of design realisation – it’s like she created the pieces with fervour before their essence could be lost.  She admits to struggling with pattern cutting and finding a way around that limitation by creating cutouts roughly in the shape of a dress sketched flat on a piece of paper.  Rather than being held back by her limitation, it fed into the quick, naive mood of the illustrations and brought them to life in an honest and ‘fitting’ way.

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The slow and at times laborious nature of refinement and re-working in clothing design and creation can mean that all that is human about the design is smoothed away, leaving a perfect but impersonal result.  The ‘hand’ in the creation – the personality – is lost.  Edda’s clothes are theatrical and honest – not unlike her.  Edda’s personality shines boldly throughout the collection and I want to wear it all.  I was in and out of tops and skirts and shoes and lived for a little while in her world.  It was fun, personal and compelling.

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To hear Edda talk about receiving a warm and positive response to her work was a joy.   She was still beaming from meeting Jimmy Choo earlier that day.  He took a huge shine to her and her collection.  He adored her mis-matched and customised high street shoes.  I can’t help but think of Quentin Blake‘s illustrations when I look at her black scribbles atop the pointy toed shoes.  She beams with the recollection of reading Roald Dahl‘s books as a child and initially couldn’t remember where her inspiration for this illustration style came from, until she dug deep into her memories and saw the connection.


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I’m delighted to bring the passion and energy of Edda’s designs to the ‘pages’ of Techstyler.  Her garments are digitally printed and cut and sewn in London and when I spoke to her at Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week she was taking private orders.  Sara Maino from Vogue Italia stopped by and Edda had interest from boutiques in Japan while I was chatting to her, so get your orders in fast, before everyone’s chasing a piece of Edda Gimnes magic.

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Edda Gimnes AW16 Lookbook

When rounding off this post I read a completely unrelated (but brilliant) article and realised that the success of Edda’s collection lies in its authenticity.  It offered this:

“When you’re not trying to hide away the real version of yourself, people will respond’.  When you’re demonstrating authenticity, not some contrived personality, that’s when you find a way to reach out and connect with other human beings”

Onwards and upwards, authentically.

Header Image: Edda Gimnes AW16 Lookbook

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